Pitt Roars Into Top 10

The year 1982 has been brought up throughout this season for the Pitt football team, and that Dan Marino-led team has come to prominence again today.

After five straight victories and an 8-1 start this season -- including a 37-10 win against Syracuse Saturday at Heinz Field -- Pittsburgh moved into the top 10 in both the Associated Press writers' poll at No. 8 and the USA Today coaches' poll at No. 9.

This is the first time the Panthers' football program has been ranked this high in November since that 1982 squad accomplished it. The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) standings were released later in the day, and Pitt was 12th. The Panthers were No. 13 last week, their highest BCS rating.

With three games remaining -- against Notre Dame Saturday at 8 p.m. at Heinz Field, with West Virginia Nov. 27 in Morgantown, W.Va. and against No. 4 Cincinnati Dec. 5 at Heinz Field -- the Panthers can capture the Big East title and BCS bowl bid.

"We talked about Syracuse and watched film on them for two weeks, so we definitely were sick of Syracuse,'' Pitt fifth-year senior quarterback Bill Stull said. "But we didn't fall into the trap they set. We know what's at stake, and now we can look forward to Notre Dame. And we'll be ready for them.''

Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Gus Mustakas certainly will be ready.

"I can't wait for this game,'' Mustakas said. "I've been looking forward to this since our three-overtime game last season, so I just can't wait to get out there and prepare for them.

"They have a great team, a good quarterback and great receivers. ... So, it's going to be a great test. We have a hard three games coming up, and I can't wait to get after Notre Dame next.''

Pitt is one of four Big East teams ranked in one of the two polls this week. The others are 9-0 Cincinnati (5th by the AP and 5th by the coaches), 6-2 South Florida (23rd and 24th) and 7-2 West Virginia (23rd in the coaches poll).

The Panthers have been on a hot streak for nearly two years now with an 18-5 record since their stunning 13-9 win at then-No. 2 West Virginia Dec. 1, 2007. That victory cost the Mountaineers a trip to the BCS-title game and boosted Pitt's recruiting efforts and momentum heading into 2008.

The Panthers won nine regular-season games for the first time in some two decades last year and were selected to their first bowl game in Coach Dave Wannstedt's tenure. Now, in his fifth season at his alma mater, Wannstedt has guided Pitt to even greater heights.

The defense finally is playing as well as advertised, and the offense has been blazing. The Panthers outscored Syracuse and South Florida, their past two opponents, 78-24 with players from both sides of the line earning national recognition.

Freshman tailback Dion Lewis is seventh with 126.56 rushing yards per game and 15th in scoring with 13 touchdowns overall (12 rushing). Stull is fifth with a passer rating at 161.61. Redshirt junior defensive end Greg Romeus is 20th with .83 sacks per game, and the Panthers lead the nation with 4.33 sacks per game after collecting six against Syracuse.

Pitt could finish in the top five by running the table this season with a post-season victory as well. But first, the Panthers must prepare for Notre Dame and a nationally-televised contest Saturday night on ABC-TV.

Here are the AP and USA Today polls: Click Here

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